With all of the crazy busy-ness going on last month, I didn't have a chance to participate in the October #TwelveLoaves challenge. Total bummer. And I knew I couldn't let it happen twice, no matter how crazy November got.
And then the theme for November was announced. Apples or pears.
No way was I going to miss this one.
And I had so many ideas - apple cinnamon buns, apple braids, apple monkey bread, apple quickbreads or muffins, apple coffee cake... the possibilities were deliciously endless.
And then inspiration hit me. For the longest time, I've wanted to try a dessert version of the pork buns (bao) that I made for last years Daring Cooks' Challenge (that I recreated as cheesesteak buns once, too).
What better time than now??
The dough came together as previously (quickly and easily!), and I made a simple caramelized apple filling.
Some butter and brown sugar is all it takes...
And then, of course, some apples. And I added a sprinkling of cinnamon for good measure, too.
I wanted my buns to be nice and apple-y, but not bursting, so I used a generous tablespoon of filling for each bun.
I still need work on sealing these little beauties, but I soon had a full tray, all ready to go into the oven.
The best part about these is how quickly they cook up. A quick 15 minutes, and you we had golden delicious apple-y goodness.
And, yes, I really do need practice sealing these...
Bursting with flavor, packed with apples, these were absolutely delicious.
I ate three that afternoon. And I just might have let little miss have one for breakfast the next morning... And little man enjoyed them, too.
I can't wait to see what December brings!
for the dough:
1 cup milk, scalded
1/4 cup sugar
1 tablespoon oil (I used canola, but the recipe didn't specify)
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 1/2 teaspoons dried yeast (I used active dry)
3 cups plain flour (I used all purpose)
Scald the milk, then stir in the sugar, oil and salt. Leave this mixture to cool until it is lukewarm. Once the temperature is right (around 105-110 degrees), add the yeast, then let it sit until the yeast is activated and the mixture becomes frothy, about 10-15 minutes.
Sift the flour into a large bowl.
Add the milk/yeast mixture to the flour. Bring the flour mixture together with your hands, then knead on a lightly floured surface for approximately ten minutes. (I sifted the flour into the bowl of my KitchenAid mixer, then used the dough hook and incorporated the milk/yeast and did the kneading all in the machine, which worked out great.)
Place the dough in a lightly oiled bowl (I kept it in the KitchenAid's bowl, just gave it a little spray of oil on top) and cover with a damp cloth. Leave it to rise until it doubles in size, 1 - 2 hours, depending on the temperature of your kitchen.
for the filling:
2 apples (any variety you'd like), diced pretty fine
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2 cup light brown sugar
a sprinkle of ground cinnamon (to taste)
Heat a skillet over medium/medium-high heat. Add butter to pan. As it starts to melt, add the brown sugar to the pan and mix gently to combine. The idea is to combine the sugar and butter and melt the whole mixture until it becomes a simple caramel. You don't want to stir too much, but you do want to make sure that the edges (or any part, really!) don't burn. Once the mixture is golden and caramel-y, add the apples and stir to coat them. Sprinkle with cinnamon and continue to cook until the apples have softened and the caramel sauce has thickend a bit.
Remove from heat and cool completely.
The sauce will thicken more as it cools.
to prepare the buns:
Once the dough has doubled in size, gently deflate it and divide it into 16 portions. Roll each portion into a round ball.
Use a rolling pin to roll each ball into a circle approximately two inches in diameter. Using your hands, gently pull the edges out to enlarge the circle to about three inches in diameter (mine were a little bigger) (this makes the edges thinner than the center, keeping the center of the bun stronger for the filling, and keeping it from cracking).
Place a good sized tablespoon of cooled filling into the middle of the circle of dough.
Gather the edges of the dough and seal the bun.
Place the bun on a parchment covered baking sheet, seam side down.
Preheat your oven to 400 degrees F.
Brush the top of each bun with egg wash (if desired).
Bake for 15 minutes, until golden brown.
Cool buns on a wire rack.